FPL 2023-24 Club Previews: Part 8 (Newcastle & Nottingham Forest)

Welcome back to the Fantasy Premier League, this season without a winter World Cup, and welcome back to FISO!

The Premier League 2023-24 season is set to kick off on Friday, August 11th at 18:30 UK time, with a visit of Manchester City to newly promoted Burnley. In the build-up to gameweek 1, we will be taking an in-depth look at each of the 20 teams competing in the Premier League this season, including a general team overview, a tactical preview and some FPL recommendations per side. In this eighth instalment, we’re taking a look at Newcastle United and a Nottingham Forest side that managed to avoid relegation in its first season back amongst the English footballing elite.

NEWCASTLE – FPL 2023/24 team preview

On October 7th, 2021, the sovereign nation of Saudi Arabia took control of Newcastle United, paying former (and controversial) owner Mike Ashley around £ 305 million, and just like that, a new Premier League powerhouse was born. Of course, Newcastle has been a household name in English football for years, having spent all but three years of its history outside of the highest division of English football, but with the Saudi money (and a lack of FFP enforcement) have come new possibilities. Eddie Howe was appointed as manager mid-season and guided the club to an 11th place finish, before clinching fourth place last season, his first full season in charge of the club. This marked the return of the Toon in the Champions League for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

Over the entire 2022-23 Premier League campaign, only champions Manchester City managed to keep up with Newcastle’s defensive performances. Both sides conceded just 33 goals in 38 games, with the joint numbers two on that list (Arsenal and Manchester United) conceding 43 goals each. Nick Pope showed once again why he is considered one of England’s finest goalkeepers, Kieran Trippier became the season’s stand-out defender in FPL with 198 points and talented Dutchman Sven Botman proved a valuable addition to the squad. It wasn’t just defensive solidity that got the Magpies a Champions League spot though, because a tenacious midfield trio and a versatile attacking line that included Callum Wilson and Alexander Isak proved to be too much for more than a few opponents.

As is normal for a club in the hands of one of the wealthiest nations in the world, fireworks are expected on the transfer market and the Toon have shown ambition already this summer, though not too an exaggerated extent (so far). AC Milan midfielder Sandro Tonali moved to St. James’ Park for around £ 60 million and winger Harvey Barnes was brought in from relegated Leicester for about £ 40 million, while £ 7 million was spent on 18-year-old winger Yankuba Minteh from Odense BK. At the same time, Allan Saint-Maximin left for Saudi Arabia for around £ 25 million, Chris Wood joined Nottingham Forest for about £ 15 million and Watford paid £ 350k for reserve goalie Karl Darlow. Both Matty Longstaff and Ciaran Clark were released by the club.

Newcastle’s tactical preview

A fourth-place finish for Newcastle exceeded expectation of pundits and fans alike, and while the Saudi billions naturally played a big role, the same can be said for manager Eddie Howe. The former Bournemouth manager needed relatively little time to transform the Magpies into a genuine outsider for the title last season. Looking at Newcastle last season, it was impressive to see to what extent Howe managed to improve practically every aspect of his side. We already mentioned the defensive solidity, but the Magpies were also a force in attack. While no side conceded less than them, just five sides scored more than their 68 goals, with only champions Manchester City (+61 goals) and runners-up Arsenal (+45) finishing the season with a better goal average than Newcastle (+35). Those are simply Champions League-spot-worthy numbers.

On top of that, Howe has been a dream for FPL managers in the sense that he largely stuck the same starting lineup, bar some switch-ups here and there from time to time (remember the Isak-Wilson discussions towards the end of last season?). The Englishman likes a 4-3-3 formation in which Kieran Trippier especially gets considerable freedom as a deep-lying playmaker, thanks to his fabulous right foot. In the middle, Bruno Guimaraes, Sean Longstaff and Joe Willock provided the much-needed intensity and grit in most games. Most of the rotation in the squad happened throughout the offensive line, with Joelinton and Isak vying for the left-wing spot, Wilson and Isak again competing for the striker position, and Miguel Almirón starting on the right in a majority of the games. As a result, Newcastle offered plenty of FPL potential at very affordable prices, something which is rather surprisingly still the case to a certain extent this season.

NEWCASTLE – Potential FPL targets

Despite Newcastle’s challenging opening set of fixtures for the upcoming season, with a home game against Aston Villa followed by a visit to Man City and then a home game versus Liverpool, it’s hard to look past Kieran Trippier (£6.5m). The former Spurs and Atletico Madrid man was a mainstay in most active managers’ fantasy teams last season, and with good reason. On top of 16 clean sheets, he also scored a goal and provided 9 assists, which helped him to attract an addition 39 bonus points as well. Out of all players, only Harry Kane and Erling Haaland bettered that total number of bonus points. As could be expected, Trippier’s price tag was raised for the 2023-24 season, but that hasn’t stopped over 35% of managers from including him in their gameweek 1 squad at the time of writing.

When talking about player price adjustments, we were surprised by the fact that Sven Botman (£4.5m) has remained in the budget category. His lack of attacking returns last season is most likely the reason for that, as he provided just 2 assists in 35 league starts, but he was also on the pitch for 13 clean sheets. He scored a total of 129 FPL points, which in the end is only 10 less than Fabian Schär, who got a goal and 3 assists, but who is also £0.5m more expensive. Both are good picks, but considering the price difference, we feel Botman is the stand-out here. It’s also interesting to note that the Dutchman underperformed in terms of his goalscoring, because he ended the season with a total Goals Expected ratio of 2.75. With a bit more luck, we can see him crossing the 150-point barrier this season, which is nothing short of excellent for a £4.5m-priced defender.

Callum Wilson (£8.0m) was often part of heated discussions surrounding the Newcastle starting lineup and not without reason. After all, the 31-year-old got just 21 league starts last season, which immediately highlights the main issue with this fantasy pick recommendation. Rotation is real in the Toon front line, but honestly, we find it hard to see Wilson not starting the season as the number one pick up front for Newcastle. After all, he scored an impressive 18 goals and managed another 6 assists, which brings his average attacking returns per start to 1.14. It remains to be seen how Eddie Howe will be managing his squad with Champions League football on the agenda this year, but as we said before, his strongest starting eleven in any competition should include Callum Wilson as the central striker. From that point of view, £8.0m represents a very affordable starting price level.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST – FPL 2023/24 team preview

Last season, Nottingham Forest were one of the promoted sides and to say that expectations were low in terms of them avoiding relegation would be an understatement. The main reason for this, apart from returning to the Premier League for the first time since 1999, was their seemingly chaotic summer transfer window. The club could not hold on to many of the core players that helped them achieve promotion in the first place and on top of that, they spent almost £ 200 million on about thirty new players. Manager Steve Cooper never looked like he was anywhere near despair though, instead choosing to focus on the mammoth challenge that lay ahead in any scenario, and with great success.

For most of the 2022-23 Premier League campaign, the Tricky Trees were battling relegation, shifting in and out of the bottom three places every week. What gave them the advantage in the end over rivals like Southampton and Leeds was the City Ground, their stadium-turned fortress under Cooper. Out of the 38 points they got over the season, an incredible 30 were won in home games, including victories over Arsenal and Liverpool, and a draw versus champions Manchester City. On top of that, Cooper managed to create a team out of what seemed a very loose collective of professional footballers at the start of the season. If Forest want to have hopes of securing yet another season of Premier League football this year, the manager will have to build on that and find a way to improve what ended up being the worst away record in the entire division.

After the previously mentioned madhouse of a 2022 summer transfer window, business is a lot calmer this summer. More than a few players were shipped out, including the likes of Jack Colback, Jesse Lingard and André Ayew, while Keylor Navas and Renan Lodi ended their respective loan spells. On the incoming side, Forest spent around £ 15 million on talented Man United winger Anthony Elanga and about the same on Newcastle striker Chris Wood, while former Chelsea talent Ola Aina was brought in for free from Serie A side Torino. At the moment of writing, rumours surrounding the signings of Arsenal goalkeeper Matt Turner (£4.0m in FPL) to replace Navas and central defender Roger Ibañez from AS Roma are growing.

Nottingham Forest’s tactical preview

Supported by a home crowd that always turned up, Steve Cooper showed last season that he is not only a good squad builder, but a tactically flexible manager as well. At the start of last season, the Reds lined up in a kind of 3-4-3 formation that had brought them so much success in the Championship, but their attempts to overrun the opposition like this were not nearly as effective in the Premier League. They simply left themselves too open this way, which forced Cooper to switch to a more compact setup in the shape of a narrow 4-3-3 formation. The team dropped deeper, their attacking intentions became less expansive, and the playing style turned to a more direct counter-like tactic.

While this provided the side with the much-needed solidity in the back, it had a very negative effect on their attacking output. Cooper then tried a possession-focused approach with a 4-3-2-1 formation and then, after not seeing the desired results on the pitch, reverting to his favoured 3-4-3 lineup. The players got the hang of playing as a low block and using the technical, pacy guys up front to create the danger, often on the break. With the likes of Brennan Johnson and Morgan Gibbs-White in attack, this tactic worked and we can see Forest starting in this formation (or a variation) of it come gameweek 1.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST – Potential FPL targets

When you collect 17 attacking returns (5 goals and 12 assists) in a newly promoted side that scored just 38 goals overall, your chances of making it into our list of recommended picks from that side for the next season are quite high. This is the case for Morgan Gibbs-White (£6.0m), who was quite deservingly voted Nottingham Forest Player of the Season 2022-23. The team’s number ten in theory, the former Wolves man drifts along the forward areas with freedom, using his technique, excellent passing and superior vision to create danger for his side. He is also the main man for Forest set-pieces, including penalties, which makes him an interesting budget fantasy pick at just £6.0. Forest’s opening set of fixtures is one to be avoided, in our opinion, but once the calendar clears up a bit from gameweek 8 onwards, we can see a few managers bringing him in.

Not far behind MGW, who was Forest top FPL points-scorer last season with 145 points, Brennan Johnson (£6.0m) had a good debut season in the Prem with 122 points, courtesy of 8 goals and 5 assists. It took us a moment to find him in the official fantasy game, because surprisingly, the man who often led the line last season is now classified as a midfielder and a very affordable one at that. The 22-year-old has been linked to more than a few clubs this summer already, with Spurs being named most consistently, but so far, the Welshman is still a Red. Should this still be the case come September 1st, when the transfer window in England closes, then we could very well have an excellent FPL asset on our hands here. When fit, he is a nailed-on part of Steve Cooper’s starting eleven and he might even share penalty duties with Gibbs-White. Plus, seeing as the attacker counts as a midfielder in FPL this season, each goal is worth an extra point and he gets a point for a clean sheet as well.

If Matt Turner is eventually brought in from Arsenal, he would be our third Forest fantasy pick at £4.0m, but seeing as the transfer has not been confirmed yet, we are going with Anthony Elanga (£5.0m) for now. The Swedish winger got his real breakthrough at Man United last season under new manager Erik ten Hag, starting 20 league games. His attacking output was limited though, with just 1 goal and 1 assist, but he did show why the Red Devils rated him so highly. Elanga has now joined Forest for around £ 15 million and we expect him to get some chances to establish himself as a starter over the first weeks of the season. He is very much a punt, but also a serious budget enabler with a price tag of just £5.0m. Those fantasy managers looking for an enabler with differential potential should keep Elanga on their scouting lists.